I rested my bike along the cobblestone wall of the bridge. Just beyond sat a vineyard with rows of grapes, and most importantly, a large tree providing ample shade. Here, I thought, here is where I will lie down and maybe never get up.
My feet dragged my aching body to the shaded grass and I wasted no time making my way to my earthen bed. I lay supine, like a starfish and closed my eyes, listening to my breathing decelerate and feeling the pain from the day leave my soul.
Our tablet, which provided Dave GPS capabilities suffered an unfortunate early demise several weeks prior. We play a game of guess the time, and, well, don’t check the time on your tablet while riding a bike, kids. It slipped out of his hands and landed face down on the pavement.
Traveling from A to B since has been a bit of a guessing game, and up until our final day in Italy, we had the fortune of following the mostly-well labeled Alpe Adria Bikeway, and didn’t need to rely on a map.
After two days of what we refer to as Mickey Mouse campgrounds, we were through with tenting among several hundred strangers, a lack of toilet paper or soap in the bathrooms and exorbitant fees for erecting our own home on a square of gravel. For €40.50 (not including the €5 Internet fee), we paid for a 3:00AM alarm clock in the form of an outdoor discotheque at the beach nearby. At the same time, four halfwits decided it was a great hour to become neighbors, and pitched their tent just feet away from ours.
Dave spent an hour before bed finding and booking an indoor place for us to stay in Slovenia the following day.
We awoke later than our usual 5:15 the following morning, significantly reducing the amount of comfortable riding hours. The weather had been in the mid-90s, and if we wanted to cycle with minimal discomfort, it required us to leave no later than 7:00. This particular morning, we departed Thunder Mountain Campground just before 9:00.
And we had hills to climb, lots and lots of hills. Hills that never, ever pointed down. No matter how high above the treeline we rose, there was still more hill to summit. Further, portions of the route directed us along a hiking route with softball-sized rocks decorating the path.
With the humidity pushing 100%, sweat poured off our bodies, sprinkling the road with proof of our efforts. We gagged at the scent of our own odor emitting from the cycling jerseys that hadn’t been properly washed in weeks.
By the time we finished lunch in Trieste, we had regained a bit of energy. It was now 2:00 and we still had 30km left to ride before our destination. Typically on very hot days, we ride no later than noon.
We pushed on surprisingly well and entered Slovenia in the late afternoon. Olive and peach groves and vineyards speckled the landscape. We were going to make it after all.
Just after the border, my energy suddenly depleted. I felt an intense burn on my thighs and looked down to notice a severe heat rash. The sun had scorched my legs and I felt the fire radiating like a blast of heat in the face from an open oven. Shade, of which there was very little, was my only refuge.
Just six kilometers from real beds, complete with walls to block any noise or late night neighbors, I found my resting place. I switched into pants to cover my burning thighs, rested my bike along the cobblestone wall of the bridge and let Dave and Sora ride off without me.
I didn’t want to pedal another rotation. I was through with my bike and the heat and not knowing where we were. I was also silently livid with Dave for having chosen a destination for the evening without having first mapped the distance. I was perfectly content ending the day under my shaded tree.
Eventually he retrieved me and we puttered along, through cool tunnels, inching our way towards our hostel.
All I could think about was ice for my legs. And peaches.
I wanted nothing more than a ripe, juicy peach at that moment. The abundant peach trees along the route teased me with barbed wire fences or high branches. Had I the capacity, I would have stolen a peach to satisfy my deep desire for the fuzzy stone fruit. Peaches dominated my thoughts.
I rounded a corner where I heard Dave yelling my name while holding up two bottles of ice cold water for my thighs. The Pit Stop, it was called.
OHMYGOD! PEACHES HAVE PITS. THIS IS A PEACH STAND. PEACHES!
It was not, in fact a peach stand, but rather a resting place for weary cyclists such as Dave and myself. I rolled the water bottles over my thighs as we chatted with an Italian cyclist about our journey.
After our respite, Dave and I rode alongside and I explained my yearning for a peach. Just one peach. That was all I wanted.
And then we rounded a corner and there, arranged in perfect rows in square wooden boxes, were all the peaches I could ever want. I had wanted a peach so badly that I imagined it true. I told the woman I wanted a peach I could eat at that very moment and she handed me a soft, round peach. It dented slightly to my touch as I examined it before taking a bite. The juices ran down my hand and over my wrist, dripping down my arm.
It was the greatest peach I had ever eaten.
My peach craving complete, we pressed on the final kilometers, which we were told were all down hill.
We left the bikeway, where we promptly met a bustling beach town that required us to summit a sizable hill before reaching our destination. This massive hill sat between us and our comfortable, private, indoor resting place.
We heaved our bikes over the hill and arrived into Piran, an adorable Venetian beach town with cobblestone streets and aqua waters. At the time of our arrival, however, after cycling for over 10 hours with the sun beating down on us, I could not appreciate the cute little beach town.
We wandered in and out of streets using our useless map in search of this hostel. At one point, I lost Dave around a corner and decided to stop. I took off my damn bike shoes and just sat on the side of the road until he found the location of our comfortable, private, indoor resting place.
He found me several minutes later and looked at me questioningly, asking why I was sitting there with my shoes off.
He then had the audacity to instruct me to put my shoes back on and ride to our hostel, as he thought he had found the location.
I shot him my best death stare, as I pondered all sorts of insults to take his name in vain.
“I am not putting my shoes back on, nor am I riding anywhere else this evening,” I informed him.
I stayed true to my word by walking my bike to our final destination. After making three rights around a block to arrive at the front door, we had finally arrived.
Our room had a kitchen, a bed, and air conditioning. It had a table on which we could eat and toilet paper and soap in the bathroom. It had free hot water in the shower and no loud neighbors or discotheques.
We remained there for three days.